Ways to Lose Money: the 1994-1997 Toyota Tercel

I don’t know what screws I have loose, but I can’t help but find these mid-’90s Tercels handsome. They represent the last of the line for Tercels in America, and these pre-1998-facelift coupes strike me as somehow gorgeous. 


The people walking past me while I was taking these photos on w. 91 st. looked a little perplexed, and I can’t blame them. There are few Tercel fanciers out there, but I can’t tear my eyes away from this car.

This car tops out at something around 80mph when it’s at its best, and most certainly travels at 70 on shaky legs.¹ This is, at times, exactly what a want in a car. It should have stable handling at low speeds with nothing to catch me off guard if I get stupidly aggressive on some narrow turn out on some country road, it shouldn’t be hard to get fixed, and it should be goddamn cheap. Gas mileage is something over 30 miles per gallon (alternatively 3.3 gallons/100miles).

These were indeed the last Tercels sold in America, this car being a fifth generation car. Built as something of a refresh of the introduced-in-1991 fourth generation model, the fifth gen got a facelift in 1998, then disappeared in 1999 to be replaced with the Echo. While the 5th gen Tercel is a racy mommy mobile, I can only describe the Echo as the car of choice for substitute teachers, at least for those whose purple two-door Cavaliers just aren’t driving like they used to.

I don’t mind anything about the Tercel, though I definitely don’t expect it to be fast. They’re so slow, even TercelReference.com doesn’t even list a 0-60 time for these cars!²

There’s not much talk online about the Tercel’s engine, and less about the differences between the four and five speed transmissions, but perhaps someday I will be picking up a fresh Tercel for around a grand, well on my way to some perfect price budget hoonage. 93 horsepower and 100lbs/ft of torque are more than enough for snowy parking lot J-turns and spring thaw road trips.

For Reference:

1. Karidian McNamara, “1993 Toyota Tercel car review”, Toyotaland. http://www.toyoland.com/car-reviews/toyota/tercel.html (accessed November 6, 2011).

2. TercelReference.com. http://www.tercelreference.com/ (accessed November 6, 2011).

This entry was posted in Fascination of the Boring, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ways to Lose Money: the 1994-1997 Toyota Tercel

  1. peter says:

    i drove a 1981 honda accord to my substitute teaching assignments. 4-door, 5-speed. beige.


    • Raphael Orlove says:

      BADAMN – now that is a classy ride! I have special feelings for 1981 Accords ever since I got to drive my friend’s around town – a blue two door

  2. Håkbråk says:

    I have seen several of these Tercels that have been BMW-ified, with kidney grilles and roundels. And they look… right! The body has something very Bavarian to it.

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